Thursday, 30 January 2014

Princess

We're in a new hotel, a little further down the coast, which we booked independently to extend our stay by a day. Sadly, the Punta Cana Princess Hotel doesn't seem to have any hot water at the moment, so we're covered in sand from the beach, aching from the sun, and unable to relax before bed. I should point out that this is the most expensive hotel we've ever stayed in! A whopping £200 for a single night! I really think hot water would have been a nice touch!

I woke up at Hard Rock feeling a little confused after a series of incredibly vivid dreams. At one stage, I was in a church in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, talking to Prince Edward and Prince Andrew who'd just commissioned me to compose  a piece of music! Five seconds later I was in a hyper-market with Nathan who was trying to steel a purple shirt. Do any dream analysts reading this fancy a crack at working out what that's all about.

We sat on the beach last night until about midnight, watching scores of Chinese lanterns drifting up into the sky from a point about a mile along the coast. The tiny dots of yellow light formed the most amazing, ever-changing constellations in the ink-black sky. Seconds later, the heavens opened, and for about five minutes it absolutely bucketed it down with rain. I was so relieved to finally experience a tropical shower!

We took a car from Hard Rock to our new hotel, and, in the process, finally got to see a tantalising glimpse of the actual Dominican Republic, which my rose-tinted glasses presented to me as something from the pages of On The Road.

It was a strange, disorientating experience to watch everything flashing by from behind a car window which refused to open. The Spanish road signs, the dilapidated street-side bars with corrugated iron roofs filled with men smoking cigars, fanning themselves casually whilst watching the world passing by. An old-school, rickety 1950s truck screeched past - beeping its horn at a clutch of mopeds with one, two, three riders -  its tall sides covered in a giant advertisement for Coca-Cola.

Our mad driver was in a hurry to get us to a hotel he didn't know. (In this part of the world, all hotels have the same name.) He dodged every piece of traffic around him, and we bobbed about in the back seat, feeling like we'd been thrown onto the most dangerous roller-coaster in the crappiest touring fair!

"You want music?" He shouted

"No thanks. We had too much music at the Hard Rock Hotel. The silence is lovely..."

A minute later, he switched the radio on full blast and sang along at the top of his voice whilst drumming the steering wheel with his fingers. A light waft of halitosis drifted back to us from the front seat.

We drifted through a little town, back from the beach resorts, and probably the nearest the Dominicans can get to their coastline in this part of the country. Here there were car washes with neon signs, curious hairdressers, cigar stalls, men selling paintings by the side of the road, handmade, faded, jaded shop signs, red, yellow and bright pink flowers, tiny supermarkets, heaps of fruit on trestle tables, motorbike repair shops. Waste-not-want-not...

The poverty levels behind the fancy resorts are incredibly high, making a desperate mockery of the terrible wastage we witnessed at Hard Rock.  The food that place must throw away. The bins I saw filled with brand new pens, paper, glitter and glue which delegates had used to make banners for a few tawdry minutes during their conference.  It all suddenly felt grotesque as we juddered through that little town. I thought about the kids coming from school in their yellow busses and how excited they'd be to find a bin filled with such amazing stationery. I imagined how excited I would have been as a ten year old child to find it! What's happened to the world in the last thirty years?

In this dusty part of the world, most of the buildings either look like they're in the process of being built, or about to fall down. We saw kids playing on gravel paths next to piles of rubbish and people waiting for buses on benches made out of tree trunks.

But there's a life here which excited me. A life I never once saw at the Hard Rock Hotel with its crazy marble crypt-like walls, sycophantic staff, piped music, ornate lawns and fancy smells.

And yet, I go to bed in a bad mood because I can't have a hot bath! I've got some serious thinking to do haven't I?!!

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